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5 Steps to the Perfect Business Pitch

Investors back the rider, not the horse.

Sage words for entrepreneurs to live by, says Doug Mollenhauer.

The Vancouver communications coach and founder of Quantum Leap Learning says few will ever leave a boardroom, an impromptu elevator meeting, or even the Den with a deal unless they can pitch a product and sell themselves.

“Delivery considerations are huge in a business presentation,” says Mollenhauer, who runs sales-pitch workshops. “You don’t want to wing it. The single most potent antidote to anxiety is rehearsal.”

Here’s what Mollehauer calls his “Big Five” elements of winning presentations.

Empathy

Know what’s important to the investor and to the clients.

“Empathy is a good understanding of where your audience is coming from,” Mollenhauer says. “Be attuned to the needs of the audience.”

To a Dragon, a top priority may be making money, so it’s important not to lose sight of the economic case — not just the practical —for why an idea is worth backing.

Value

Ensure the core message behind the benefits of a business are well understood, Mollenhauer says.

“Value is really the core message,” he says. “You may be using empathy to anticipate questions that the audience would have, and your value is really how you’re addressing answers to those questions.”

Clarity

Perhaps the ultimate deal killer is a lack of clarity, or an ability to be succinct yet on message.

“If I don’t get it, the message is not going to be acted on,” Mollenhauer says, adding that among the main threats to clarity is an overly “technical perspective.”

“People will get bogged down in the aspects of a product, but you really need to stay at a higher level about what it does,” he says.

That’s where visual aids, live demonstrations, and graphs projecting sales come in to play.

Trust

Venture capitalists often don’t just invest in a product or a service, but a person or a team pushing that business plan. That takes a leap of faith.

So make it easy on the investors, Mollenhauer says. Get them to like you and trust you before they buy in.
“The Dragons know they’re essentially forming a partnership with you,” he says. “Your authenticity, your competency, your candour and conviction reveals a lot.”

Delivery tips:

  • Spread eye contact around the room
  • Keep a grounded stance, don’t pace.
  • Speak to be heard but don’t be shrill.

Closure

There will almost always be tough followup questions. Don’t leave these unresolved.

“Closure is about your ability to respond to question in ways that are convincing,” Mollenhauer says. “There will be some degree of pushback because an investor or a buyer is going to be looking for whether you’ve anticipated questions.”

Listen carefully to the questions, and even repeat it aloud if necessary.

“But give them the short answer first. If you wade into a long answer, there’s a good chance they’re going to cut you off,” Mollenhauer says. “Close by asking if you’ve answered their question. Has that addressed your concern? It’s not a bad way to close the loop.”

Lastly, he says, it always helps to know when to throttle back on a pitch when encountering resistance. While less severe forms of resistance (“I’m confused; you’ve lost me”) can be extinguished with a quick explainer, and the next level up (“I don’t like it”) might take a bit more massaging, what a presenter absolutely wants to avoid is the “I don’t like you” scenario.

“Now they’re reacting to your style. They get it, they think it’s a decent idea, but they’re like, ‘No thanks,’ to you,” Mollenhauer says. “That’s when you know you need to just shut up.”

Photo Credit: iStock.com